Technocracy IX: Nano-Science (1)

Ted: I don’t like it here. I don’t know what’s going on. We’re both stumbling around together in this unformed world whose rules and objectives are largely unknown, seemingly undecipherable or even possibly non-existent, always on the verge of being killed by forces we don’t understand!

Allegra: That sounds like my game, all right.

Ted: It sounds like a game that’s not gonna be easy to market.

Allegra: But it’s a game everybody is already playing.

Existenz


The above quote is taken from the 1999 film Existenz by Canadian director David Cronenberg who has been fascinated by the interaction between man and machine for much of his career. In the film, we are introduced to a near-future scenario in which virtual reality games interface directly with the body via “game pods” which have replaced electronic consoles. The pods are attached to “bio-ports”, which have been inserted in the players’ spines, through an umbilical cord of bio-cybernetic flesh. Gaming companies Antenna Research and Cortical Systematics, compete against each other. A resistance group made up of “realists” are fighting to prevent the “deforming” of reality by such technology.Though seemingly an enjoyable fantasy, it is fast becoming close to reality.

Cronenberg’s film touches on many issues associated with the hugely popular world of virtual reality and the move towards integrating the human body with computer circuitry, in this case, as an entertainment tool. This hyper-realistic world seems to provide a seductive alternative from a society which is failing people through a lack of values and the emotional and spiritual nourishment it sorely needs. The integration of synthetic environment modelling, biotechnology, genetic engineering, cognitive technology, neuroscience and SMART visions are all being applied to the future of military and law enforcement under the guiding hand of Pathocratic rule.

And what of nanotechnology and its place in this saw-see between the dark and light of humanity’s destiny?

One of the most exciting, potentially beneficial forms of technology which underlies much of the current practical advances in cutting-edge science is nanotechnology or the manipulation of physical, chemical and biological properties of matter at an atomic and molecular scale. Many scientists believe nanoscience on its own, potentially heralds a change on the scale of the Industrial Revolution.

The United Kingdom’s Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IME) produced a report in early 2015 titled: Nanotechnology: The Societal Impact of The Invisible which gave a useful summary of the benefits, risks and public concerns, though with a subtle bias in favour of nanotech overall. According to the IME report there is a distinction to made between the science and technology of this field.

“The field of nanoscience grew out of the technological advancements brought about by the tunnelling microscope, enabling scientists to begin to understand and characterise the nature of materials at the atomic level. Conversely, nanotechnology in its purest sense is the design and application of functional systems at the molecular level to create usable structures and devices”.

Nanomaterials are present both in Nature and in synthetic production, the latter essentially attempting to improve on what already exists in the natural world. These organic and in-organic structures include viruses, wax crystals on leaves, Spider silk, the bottom of gecko feet, Butterfly wings, cement, scales, paper, corals, colloids (milk and blood) skin, feathers, horns and hair, clays, opals, pigments and smoke.

Nanotechnology is apparently much more than the “very small” with precise nano-scale and recognised by what is called an  SI prefix for one billionth (n) or 10-9 (0.000000001). Some examples follow:

image

Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution: 27th Report, Novel Materials in the
Environment: The case of nanotechnology, 2008.

What makes nanoscience so compelling, even magical, is the capacity to buck the rules of Newtonian physics, where materials behave in accordance to quantum laws. This is due to the fact that the properties of materials change at the nanoscale, with a percentage of the atoms involved taking a highly significant role in the process of malleable change. The IME report describes it in the following way:

As the size reduces so the physical properties e.g. the melting/boiling point, conductivity fluorescence, magnetic permeability, absorption rates, strength and chemical reactivity begin to change; properties that the very same substances may not exhibit at the micro or macro scales. Newtonian physics no longer applies and the material behaves according to the laws of quantum physics. Nanomaterials are closer in size to atoms and molecules than they are to bulk materials, and due to this ‘smallness’, electromagnetic forces become more dominant than gravitational ones. Typically, a material or particle is referred to as ‘nano’ when it is 1–100nm in size. However the quantum effects generally occur around the 1–30nm range. At these scales it is necessary to use highly specialised microscopes, known as scanning tunnelling microscopes (STMs) which were developed in the early 1980s.

Which brings us to the process of building miniature structures at the micrometre scale, otherwise known as “microfabrication” which now extends into the nanosphere. This process obviously uses ultra-sophisticated, precision engineering techniques and high level design to carry out such manipulations. An example of how advanced such microfabrication has become hails from a 2014  German/Israeli team of engineers and their creation of a nanoscale ‘robot.’ According to the IME report, It: “…has has the potential to be small enough to manoeuvre inside the human body and possibly inside human cells.” They state further:

The robot has a tiny screw-shaped propeller that can move in a gel-like fluid, mimicking the environment inside a living organism. The filament that makes up the propeller is made of silica and nickel and is only 70nm in diameter; the entirepropeller is 400nm long, making it 100 times smaller than a human blood cell. It is so small,that its motion can be affected by the motion of nearby molecules (known as Brownian motion). The scientists were able to control the motion of the propellers using a relatively weak rotating magnetic field.

So this gives you some idea of the size we are talking about here. Nanotechnology is highly adaptable and takes four main  forms all of which are currently in commerical use.

The IME report lists these as:

    •  C60/Fullerenes – Fullerenes[20], named after Buckminster Fuller, the architect who pioneered the geodesic dome, are groupings of 60 carbon molecules often written as C60 and nicknamed buckyballs. Fullerenes are known for their strength and lightness; for example, when compressed to 70% of their original size, they become twice as hard as diamonds.
    • Carbon Nanotubes – Carbon nanotubes were first developed in 1991 and have an array of fascinating electronic, magnetic and mechanical properties; conducting heat and electricity far better than copper. They are at least 100 times stronger than steel, but only one sixth as dense.
    • Nanoparticles – Nanoparticles can be metallic, mineral, polymer-based or a combination of materials. The most common are titanium dioxide, zinc oxide and nanosilver. They have multiple uses: as catalysts, drug delivery mechanisms, dyes, sunscreens and filters.
    • Nanowires – Nanowires are extremely narrow threads (less than 50nm wide) and have the potential to be used in electronic devices. While they are still being developed, the hope is that they could enable further miniaturisation of electronic chips.

The latest hot topic in nanotech is molecular self assembly or self-assembled nanostructures. Using concepts of supramolecular chemistry, and molecular recognition these are brought together to induce single-molecule components to automatically arrange themselves into some useful conformation. In other words, this is the process by which molecules construct themselves into natural structures without external manipulation. Since molecules naturally bond at this level certain molecules are introduced to trigger particular outcomes. It is this automation that is the bedrock of nanotechnology. Research and Development is currently receiving millions of dollars to create self-assembly machines so that: “… in the near future, mass production self-assembly systems will be developed which would allow the mass assembly of electrical interconnections on semiconductor chips in large quantities with high speed and high precision.”

nanoflower

‘Nano Flower,’ a 3-D nanostructure grown by controlled nucleation of silicon carbide. (photomicrograph taken by Ghim Wei Ho, a Ph.D). Source: – redOrbit.com

In plain language, it means nanostructures will self-assemble and replicate under an autonomous yet regulated process, achieving more and more sophistication from each generational synthetic platform.

For now, business is booming with 670 nanotech companies in Europe and funded nanotechnology initiatives developing in countries such as Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Globally there are more than 2,000 firms dealing in the production of nano materials and/or research and development. Employment in nanotechnology increases year by year with an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 people in Europe  and over 2 million in the USA. The worldwide prediction of those employed in nanotech by the year 2020 is said to be 10 million. Public funding around the world involves large sums with:

“… total global funding reaching approx $10bn in 2011 (equivalent to c7.7bn). According to Observatory Nano[29], China surpassed the USA in 2011 for the first time, taking the top position as the biggest investor in nanotechnology research with public funding of c1.8bn. Russia and the USA have almost same level of funding (c1.6 and c1.44bn respectively) with Germany, France and the UK the biggest EU investors. The total public funding in the EU (including that from the Seventh Framework Programme) rose to c2bn in 2011, corresponding to approx 25% of the global total.”

A BCC Market Research report values the global market for nanotechnology products at $26 billion in 2014 with and estimate of about $64.2 billion by 2019. This is a “ compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.8% from 2014 to 2019.”

1417160533_NAN031F-0

Global Nanotech Market 2013-2019 ($ Millions) Source: www.bccresearch.com/

Despite the IME report findings revealing what the public already knew (intense distrust) and even though nanotechnology has been in the public domain for over 40 years with future profits and investments increasing annually, the  industry and its science is: “…failing to engage with society in an open and clear way and governments continue to lack impetus in committing to international regulation.” Yet, the proliferation of nano-products has been enormous during the past decade. This is just a small sample:

• Engine oil • Car wax • Catalysts to improve fuel consumption • Anti-bacterial fabrics • Tyres • Air and oil filters • Anti-scratch finishes • Air purifiers Clothing and Textiles • Anti-bacterial and anti-odour clothing • UV-resistant and protective clothing • Wrinkle and stain-resistant apparel • Flame-retardant fabrics Electronics • Displays electronics • Data memory • Anti-bacterial and antistatic coatings on keyboards, mouses, cell phones • Batteries • Organic Light-Emitting Diodes (OLED) and LEDs • DVD coatings • Computer processors and chips • MP3 players • Xboxes and PlayStations Cosmetics • Skin cleansers • Lipstick, mascara, make-up foundations • Make-up removal • Sunscreens • Skin creams and moisturisers Food and Additives • Nutritional supplements • Anti-bacterial utensils • Plastic wrap • Energy drinks • Cleaning products • Fabric softeners • Food storage containers • Cutting boards • Nano-tea, chocolate shakes, canola active oil Household • Anti-bacterial coatings in appliances • Irons, vacuums • Self-cleaning glass • Filters • Anti-bacterial furniture and mattresses • Air purifiers • Anti-bacterial, UV-resistant paints • Solar cells • Disinfectant sprays Sports Equipment • Tennis rackets and balls • Hockey sticks • Ski wax • Wet suits • Anti-fogging coatings • Golf balls and clubs • Baseball bats • Skis and snowboards • Bicycle parts Personal Care/Health • Contact lenses • Hearing aids • Cellulite treatment • Shampoos, hair gels • Insect repellents • Man-made skin • Home pregnancy tests • Body wash • Toothpaste • Deodorants • Anti-bacterial creams • Bandages • Drug delivery patches • Anti-bacterial baby pacifiers, mugs and bottles • Anti-bacterial stuffed toys • Stain-resistant plush toys

How many people are aware that they are already using and ingesting products which contain nano-materials? Very few. In the cosmetics sector would you mind if you were slathering your face with nano-materials? According to the report most people are ambivalent but not in outright opposition, even though the same polling stats showed that knowledge of nanoscience and technology was very low.

The Cancer Research industry has also apparently leapt at the chance to explore nanotech, continuing to ignore substantial alternative fields of research in diet, nutrition and other modalities which have presented consistent results in tackling cancer. The Cancer research industry has a lot of money riding behind it and only one way, reductionist science is allowed in  despite NO successes in curing the disease. What has developed is a dependent relationship to Big Pharma with a whole new range of expensive drugs for amelioration and palliative care. For example, Cancer Research UK is: “… funding multidisciplinary projects that are already bringing together collaborative teams of cancer researchers and scientists from the engineering and physical sciences. The new scheme is set to fund about ten projects each year with up to £500,000 each.”

(An extensive infographic entitled ‘How Nanotechnology Could Reengineer Us’ gives an overview of what nanotechnology could offer the human body, by “re-engineering” us).

So “progress” explores new avenues yet remains strangely one way… None more so than in the field of military and weapons companies. Indeed, by the year 2030 the UK Ministry of Defence sees nanotech playing a vital role across every aspect of society from nano-solar cells to: “… nano-robots designed for a range of purposes – including medical robots used internally in humans and micro-platforms for reconnaissance.”

If you recall the exploration into SMART Agrimatics, it will come as no surprise that nanotech is having a significant impact across the entire agricultural production cycle. Agrichemicals are a prime source of innovation as are the use of nano-sensors in combination with SMART technology. From nano-enhanced packaging to food-related products nanomaterials are slowly being adopted despite nebulous legislation and public suspicion. Though nanotech implementation in foodstuffs and animal husbandry still remains largely at the R &D stage, according to IME: “ The future application of agri-nanoproducts does however seem certain; the USA is already looking to license some products for use in the coming years, heralding a complete change in the way we grow, maintain and process food.”

There is no doubt there is great beauty, and awe-inspiring innovation in the field of nanotechnology with huge benefits for humanity in so many fields. However, this series is about the dark side of such technology and how these innovations always gravitate to the shadows since that is polarity dominating at this time.The Institute of Mechanical Engineers believe that although there is significant optimism regarding the future of nanotechnology there is still widespread suspicion that that this technology will not ultimately go where it is needed most i.e. for society and consumers. For this reason scientists in this field are not trusted. The fact that there is still no real engagement with the public about their concerns doesn’t help and the IME suggest descreasing that dislocation. Interestingly, they perceive the main reason for this as a misunderstanding on the part of the public:

“It has been suggested that the reason why some people express these views is that the established scientific community genuinely don’t consider what they do to be of any consequence to the wider population. Rather, the spotlight falls on technological advancement rather than highlighting consumer and societal needs. This is not done out of any malice or superiority on the part of the technologists; in truth, the technical community sees it purely as the everyday, the norm, and requiring little external endorsement or explanation.

That may well be but it is a subtle form of arrogance and a lack of awareness about society as a whole. More dangerously, if they have little need to inform the public and do not feel they have a duty to do so, then they fall into the hands of those forces that covet such a separation, namely corporate interests and the State. It is almost cliche now that scientists become so involved with the creativity of their work that they are often seen as geniuses on the one hand, and out-of-touch with the wider world. They are perceived as existing in a kind of intellectual bubble where accusations of outsourced ivory towers and naivete about the larger forces at work can easily stick. It is in this sense that there is most certainly technological advancement for its own sake predicated upon this community “normality,” and therefore a way in for institutionalized hubris. This is especially true in lieu of the massive potential changes we are talking about here.

Engineers in the global defence industry have no problem rationalising their satisfaction and subsequent salary that they receive from this line of “creative work”. They are doing what they love. One individual designs the a console and  another the software for Apache helicopters in Iraq which have notched tens of thousands of civilian deaths. Is there a responsibility there? Or do they fall back on: “If I didn’t do it, someone else would.” The same applies to the dark side of nanotechnology. Official Culture makes it much easier for us not to care and to compartmentalise our conscience, even our emotional life, away from deeper connections to our fellow man and woman.

The historical perspective of technology as an automatic saviour as well as a traditional source of State control lends itself to both a philosophical and practical critique since that is exactly the reality we are facing. The progression is not one of technological emancipation for societies where it counts, it is one of State warfare and corporatism. That is where the greatest innovations in Research and Development generally end up, with the by-products effecting the social and material ecology as a mirror of what is denied. Scientists in this context, can only be effective if the overall system in which they live is designed to foster a natural cooperation of expert and layman which leans overwhelmingly toward a socio-economic framework that is inclusive and just. Clearly, this is very far from the case. Quite apart from endemic corruption in science in general, nano-scientists, and the “technical community” are no exception when they are wholly governed by the military-corporate complex and inside Official Culture, whether they are able to see that or not. Thus it matters little whether they have good intentions, rather what the real world dictates from the outside in.

Meanwhile, the US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) has referred:

“… to the possibility of information dominance through nano-electronics; virtual reality systems for training; automation and robotics to offset reductions in manpower, reduce risks to troops and improve vehicle performance; higher performance platforms with diminished failure rates and lower costs; improvements in chemical/biological/nuclear sensing and casualty care; improvements in systems for non-proliferation monitoring; and nano-/micromechanical devices for control of nuclear weapons.” [1]

Across the Three Establishment Model (3EM) the idea of enhancing human performance through the convergence of nanotechnology biology, information, cognitive science and warfare is highly seductive because it adds a technological ontology to their plans for society not least for their desire for a synthetic immortality. The promise of nano-implant devices, slowing down or reversing ageing, direct brain–machine interfaces and ‘artificial people’ has been discussed at various conferences and seminars across America since the early 2000’s. This may have something to do with the fact that “… the USA is spending far more [on nanotech] than any other country, and maybe more than the rest of the world combined.” [2]Since future science is part of the armoury of the power elite’s ideology for a World State, governments in Europe, Asia and the United States have invested almost $5 billion dollars between them, contributing to the projected annual market of around one trillion US dollars. [3]

 


Notes

[1] ‘Military Uses of Nanotechnology – European Commission’ ec.europa.eu/research/conferences/2004/ntw/pdf/soa_en.pdf
[2] Ibid. (“Figures on military NT R&D funding in other countries are difficult to obtain. The conjecture is supported by the following: the USA spends about two-thirds of the global military R&D expenditure at large (BICC, 2002); in the field of MST, according to a cautious estimate the US military R&D spending was more than ten times that of Western Europe (Altmann, 2001: 46); conference and internet presentations show an verwhelming preponderance of US work in military NT.”)
[3] ‘Apply nanotech to up industrial, agri output,’ The Daily Star (Bangladesh), 17 April 2012. | Health Risks Of Nanotechnology: How Nanoparticles Can Cause Lung Damage, And How The Damage Can Be Blocked Science Daily, June 11, 2009.

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